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A New Mexican explains why people are riled up by Jared Polis' green chile insult

As governors in Colorado and New Mexico feud over green chile, a New Mexican living in Colorado gives his perspective.

DENVER — Jeremy Jojola is an investigative reporter from New Mexico who's worked at 9NEWS for eight years. 

In our noses, we have a biological structure called the olfactory bulb that has a direct connection to the memory and emotional parts of our brains.

It’s why scent is like a time machine. The smell of your grandfather’s cologne or the odor of a certain food from your childhood can evoke strong and emotional memories. Memories are the DNA of our identity.

My time machine is the scent of roasting green chile, which transports me back to my grandmother’s humble and tiny kitchen in northern New Mexico. The scene is vivid as she bends before the stove to turn over black spotted green chile pods with her frail fingers. In the corner, the radio with one working speaker crackles with Spanish music.

Credit: Jeremy Jojola
The author's grandmother, Luisa Blea in her kitchen in New Mexcio sometime around 2011

This place — this food — is a HUGE part of my identity as a person with deep New Mexican roots. I’m proud of my unique culture, a blending of beautiful Native and Spanish elements that began to mix in the region in the late 1500s.

For generations, New Mexicans have grown green chile, picked it in their own fields, peeled it during family gatherings and made unique meals. Food is, of course, the ultimate cultural identifier.

“Red or green?” is New Mexico’s official state question with “Christmas” being the official answer. (Christmas means both.)

So what happens when someone claims a piece of our unique identity as their own? What happens when someone insults that identifier? 

The public outrage over chile began a few years ago when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock made a “Denver's fabulous green chile” bet with Seattle’s mayor during the 2014 Superbowl.

People in New Mexico didn't like that one bit.  

Colorado continues to step into the green chile territory with a new post by Governor Jared Polis this past weekend in which he called New Mexico chile “inferior."

On Tuesday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham fired back, saying on Twitter, "If Pueblo chile were any good, it would have been on national shelves before now."

While I’m not offended at all over these funny and futile declarations, I can sympathize with my fellow New Mexicans who get quite heated over this green chile feud.

While this battle between our two states may be about a green pepper, the armies of New Mexicans and Coloradans bickering on Twitter indicate this is more than just a food fight. It's a battle over identity. 

I will say I had Pueblo green chile and it isn’t bad. It’s actually quite good. Almost as good as the official green chile salsa at Broncos Stadium, which by the way is made in Albuquerque!


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